The richest football clubs, in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, are different from you and me. They are games for the world’s richest, a luxury yacht away from the working-class roots on which the sport was built. Football, especially in Europe, has always felt at the crossroads between what the wealthiest clubs desire (more revenue to continue their Hungarian spending) and the rest of the players who just can’t compete in this solar system and want to support the sporting community. – the roots.
This contrast and push and pull is exceptionally told by executive producer and director Jeff Zimbalist in the recently released four-part Apple TV docuseries, “Super League: The War for Football.” The film focuses on the creation – and eventual failure – of a proposed “Super League” competition between Europe’s most popular teams. The Premier League almost kicked off in 2021 and would have had the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Juventus and others competing in a mostly exclusive competition. Had he been successful, he would have ended the importance of the Champions League. (And the story may not be entirely over yet.)
Zimbalist, who, along with his brother Michael, directed the 2010 thriller “The Two Escobars” for ESPN’s “30 for 30,” takes what is essentially a sports action story and makes it into a compelling piece of cinema. He did so with remarkable access to key players in the saga, including UEFA captain Aleksander Ceferin; Andrea Agnelli, scion of one of the most famous Italian families and then president of the Italian team Juventus; Florentino Pérez, the longtime president of Real Madrid; Javier Tebas, the La Liga president who tells the truth, and all sorts of different other personalities, including politicians and top football reporters.
“When the story broke in April 2021, it was horrific,” Zimbalist said. “She was coup d’état Attempt to reach the highest offices of authority in the largest sports industry in the world. It will clearly have ramifications far beyond sport that extend into the economy, culture and politics. Rarely do we get that chance to lift the hood up and look at the machine in action. This is a $40 billion a year industry where decisions are made behind closed doors by men in suits that we hear about afterwards and are left to speculate about how we arrived at those decisions.
“Football is in a bit of an identity crisis at the moment. We cling to the values of the game of the past played by working-class people while begrudgingly accepting the present imperative that this is an act of entertainment. These two forces were attacking each other here, and this was an opportunity to go behind those closed doors.” .
The documentary is divided into four episodes, representing the four days in April 2021 that the Premier League was announced and then disrupted. The harsh reaction to the Europa League was demonstrated when the leaders of European football held their conference in Montreux, Switzerland. The Zimbalist describes his docuseries as a character-driven thriller that addresses questions such as whether football culture can be owned.
The film incorporates archival footage, along with power players like Čeferin and Agnelli who agree to let the filmmakers recreate things that happened during the four days of UEFA’s congress. Zimbalist said he believes he’s been given access from all sides (FIFA president Gianni Infantino was the only player to decline the filmmakers’ request for an interview) because those involved on all sides know the battle is still being played out in the court of public opinion. .
The documentaries have a total running time of 223 minutes, with each episode running between 53 and 59 minutes.
“For an American audience, you have to explain the whole pyramid system and how the ups and downs work,” Zimbalist said. “You need to provide a little bit of context as to why fans in Europe feel that this is their birthright, that they are the owners of these teams, unlike in the US where we feel the fans are of course customers of course that’s capitalism. ‘What do you mean, social democracy?’ So I felt.” That context needed some breathing room, and we wanted to explain things in a way that didn’t feel like it was an informational burden or an article on the economics of sport.
“On the one hand, you want it to be short enough that you can keep the narrative action and drama components. We looked at the four days that this happened between April 17th and April 20th, 2021, as a great opportunity structurally for every episode to be one of those days.” .
Zimbalist believes his personal feeling about the prospect of a Premier League is irrelevant. His goal as a director was to allow each viewer to process what he believes is best for European football in the long term.
“I feel like it’s my job to try to be as convincing of both arguments as possible,” Zimbalist said. “I see the arguments on both sides, and I am fascinated by how football constantly shows itself as a mirror of our changing values at a particular moment in history. I think, realistically, there are turbulent times ahead and there will be some growing pains. But I also hope you find the roots of these The sport that has made it so magical for over 150 years is a way to continue writing the future of the sport.”
Tebas warns that the new Premier League is planning a new “attack” on football
Episode 269 of the Sports Media Podcast features a roundtable discussion of sports media with Boston Globe sports media writer Chad Finn and Sports Business Journal managing editor/Austin Karp Digital. In this podcast, Deitsch, Finn, and Karp discuss the NFL weekend. ESPN’s Cowboys-Bucs coverage; Greg Olsen, Tony Romo, Al Michele, Tony Dungy, Tom Brady’s future. Fred Godelli sports documentaries on Netflix, including “Break Point”; the Apple TV+ show “Super League: The War for Football”; Australian Open coverage and more.
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